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Old 06-29-2018, 09:12 AM
Perry James Perry James is offline
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Default A question about meter and scansion

I understand meter pretty well, but there is still one situation which I am unclear on.

This line ...

and a German soldier directing him

... has ten syllables, but there is no way to make it iambic pentameter, is there? In my opinion, it is wrong to do this:

and a / GER man / SOL dier/ di RECT / ing HIM

That first foot (a pyrrhic) is "illegal" because neither syllable can take a theoretical stress. Indeed, the line has only four syllables that can take a stress, so the line has to be counted as tetrameter, doesn't it?

In my view, the only way to scan that line is like this:

and a GER / man SOL / dier di RECT / ing HIM

... with two anapests as substutions for iambs.

(If anyone answers this, I'll respond this evening. Did I post it in the right forum?)

Last edited by Perry James; 06-29-2018 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 06-29-2018, 09:37 AM
E. Shaun Russell E. Shaun Russell is offline
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A lot of meter depends on the surrounding lines. I agree that on its own, the line you cite can't effectively be scanned as IP, but it could be a trochaic pentameter line with substitution if you put a stress on the AND:

AND a GER / man SOL / dier di RECT / ing HIM


Whether AND can effectively be emphasized depends largely on the line that came before it, however.



I see nothing wrong with

and a / GER man / SOL dier/ di RECT / ing HIM

but it will be anapestic tetrameter with iambic substitutions (or iambic tetrameter with anapestic substitutions -- take your pick).

Again, though, context matters. Would you call Wordsworth's "London, 1802" trochaic pentameter or iambic? The first two lines start with trochees and there's an initial spondee a few lines down as well, but most of the poem is in perfect IP.
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Old 06-29-2018, 09:46 AM
Perry James Perry James is offline
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I have to turn off my computer in a moment, but before I do, let me say that the line above ends with a stressed syllable, so the "and" can't take a stress.

You said things in your post that don't make sense to me. You said:

"I see nothing wrong with

"and a / GER man / SOL dier/ di RECT / ing HIM

but it will be anapestic tetrameter with iambic substitutions (or iambic tetrameter with anapestic substitutions -- take your pick)."


But that scansion shows five feet, not four.

Further up you said:

"I agree that on its own, the line you cite can't effectively be scanned as IP, but it could be a trochaic pentameter line with substitution if you put a stress on the AND:

"AND a GER / man SOL / dier di RECT / ing HIM"


But that scansion is tetrameter, not pentameter.

I think that first foot is a dactyl. I consider dactyls to be illegal in IP always.

I'll be back later.

Last edited by Perry James; 06-29-2018 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 06-29-2018, 10:04 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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"Illegal"?!?!
We are not lawyers, Perry, we are poets.

Nemo
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Old 06-29-2018, 10:10 AM
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Nicholas Stone Nicholas Stone is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perry James View Post
I think that first foot is a dactyl. I consider dactyls to be illegal in IP always.
You won't like Dryden's Aeneid, then. It's in iambic pentameter and it starts with a dactyl.
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Old 06-29-2018, 10:23 AM
Stephen Hampton Stephen Hampton is offline
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Default Rhythm

Hello, and welcome to the Sphere.

Climbing (combing) through the words and lines of a work to determine the exactness (inexactness) of meters used, is not my line.... there are many here who can properly address your questions.

The rhythm in the reading of the poem, is
so verily verily verily, important
There fore this is a good ly quer y made

and, in the right place, I think
Sincerely,
Stephen
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Old 06-29-2018, 01:24 PM
E. Shaun Russell E. Shaun Russell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perry James View Post
I have to turn off my computer in a moment, but before I do, let me say that the line above ends with a stressed syllable, so the "and" can't take a stress.

I don't mean to cast any aspersions, but any word can take a stress. Literally any word. Scansion is a tool, applied retroactively to figure out where stresses are, but the art of poetry itself means that anything goes. If it makes more sense for one line to end in a stressed foot, and the next line to begin with a stressed foot, so be it. Hopkins does it all the time.


Quote:
But that scansion shows five feet, not four.
I think you might be mixing up terms here. Feet can have multiple stresses.

Quote:
I think that first foot is a dactyl. I consider dactyls to be illegal in IP always.
What Nemo said. As a metrical poet, I can do whatever the heck I want, metrically, if it serves my purpose.
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Old 06-29-2018, 03:02 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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What Nemo said. If you want to be a lawyer, be a lawyer. If you want to be a poet then develop enough confidence in your internal sense of rhythm and meter, and what works in what content, to write without wringing your fingers over it. Alternately, take a few courses in tort law.

And keep this in mind. It all depends on context. What comes before - and sometimes what comes after - has a huge effect in determining whether meter or a substitution works. Is it a humorous poem? A tragedy about a young man who worries too much about meter? Sometimes a metric excursion makes more sense when viewed within the broader body of a poet's work. It's context, and what you're doing with the poem that matters - not some rule.
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Old 06-29-2018, 03:27 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Perry, I have an explanation for you but, since it is written in verse, I am forbidden by the rules of this forum to post it here. I have instead added it to a thread (Private vs Public...) started by Aaron Poochigian on Drills and Amusements.

I wrote it some time ago when the pejorative phrase "metre wanker" cropped up hereabouts and it is still the best way I have found to express what I do to achieve a formal poem. I don't know what lawyers do so am unable to compare the techniques.
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Old 06-29-2018, 03:44 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perry James View Post
This line ...

and a German soldier directing him

... has ten syllables, but there is no way to make it iambic pentameter, is there?
Perhaps

a German soldier, too, directing him

or

a German soldier also, as his guide

or various other rephrasings, depending on the context. It mostly depends on what "and" is actually linking.
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